Dr. Mo Ibrahim Presents at the Second Annual IDP Foundation/Irene D. Prtizker Distinguished Lecture on Social and Economic Development

Photo taken by the Foreign Policy Association

Photo taken by the Foreign Policy Association

June 25, 2014

Last year, the inaugural IDP Foundation/Irene D. Pritzker Distinguished Lecture on Social and Economic Development was delighted to bring forth Irina Bokova, Director General of UNESCO to present an insightful lecture about UNESCO’s role in promoting social and economic development. The second annual lecture hosted by the IDP Foundation, Inc., the Foreign Policy Association and the UN Economic and Social Council held earlier this month delivered another tremendous speaker in Dr. Mo Ibrahim.

Ibrahim discussed the importance of governance, accountability and outcomes measurement to drive the Post-2015 development agenda, highlighting that “in the absence of peace there is no development” and peace requires good governance. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has done its part to promote strong governance and accountability through the development of the Ibrahim Index of African Governance, the most comprehensive collection of quantitative data on governance in Africa, and the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which celebrates and rewards exceptional African leaders.

At the lecture, Dr. Ibrahim was awarded the Foreign Policy Association Medal, which recognizes individuals who demonstrate responsible internationalism and work to expand public knowledge of international affairs.

You can watch the full lecture here or read the highlights on Twitter.

New Research on the Low-Cost Private School Sector

School ChildrenJune 17, 2014

The IDP Foundation, Inc. is committed to collecting data from the low-cost private schools participating in the IDP Rising Schools Program and welcomes the contribution of additional research that highlights the important role this sector plays in providing Education For All. One such study conducted by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) and sponsored by UBS Optimus Foundation demonstrates that the vast proportion of children in four slum communities attain their pre-primary education in private schools serving the poor: Ashaiman (Accra, Ghana), Agege (Lagos, Nigeria), Mukuru (Nairobi, Kenya), and Soweto (Johannesburg, South Africa).  Specifically, the study found that 84% of children in the poorest quintile in Ashaiman are receiving a pre-primary education. Of children in preschool, 91% attend a private school.[1]

In a recent Huffington Post Blog featuring this study, the authors Maya Ziswiler and Reinhard Fichtl write that a “burgeoning and competitive market among private preschools suggests that this unique model could meet the needs of marginalized children and the aspirations of low-income parents dissatisfied by the weaknesses of government-provided pre-primary education.”[2] The IDP Foundation wholeheartedly agrees, but extends this statement to include primary and early secondary education. As the IPA study notes, more than 95% of children in private preschool attend a preschool which is attached to a primary school.

With discussions surrounding the Post-2015 education agenda in full swing, it is important include the low-cost private school sector in the provision of quality education for all. The IDP Rising Schools Program is providing low-cost primary private school owners with training in school management and financial literacy accompanied by microfinance loans in order to improve their quality. Additionally, the IDP Foundation has developed teacher training videos in partnership with Sesame Workshop to promote child-centered learning in primary level classrooms. However, for there to be a systematic improvement of the sector globally, additional attention is required by governments and funders.

Ziswiler and Fichtl state, “the Optimus Foundation intends to build on the existing movement and focus on improving the quality of these existing preschools rather than creating new ones.” The IDP Foundation is pleased to see other foundations begin to support these existing locally owned and managed schools serving the poor and will continue to actively advocate for their inclusion in the global education agenda.  

[1] Bidwell, Kelly; Watine, Loic. “Exploring Early Education Programs in peri-urban Settings in Africa.” Innovations for Poverty Action. 30 January 2014. https://poverty-action.org/sites/default/files/final_ecd_report_full.pdf

[2] Fichtl, Reinhard; Ziswiler, Maya. “Schools in Slums: A Surprising Number of the Poorest Kids Are Enrolled in Private Preschools. Huffington Post Blog. 29 May 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maya-ziswiler/schools-in-slums-a-surpri_b_5403563.html

Innovation Requires Iteration

ClassroomThe IDP Rising Schools Program and the Road to Social Impact

June 6, 2014

In their recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “The Re-Emerging Art of Funding Innovation,” Gabriel Kasper and Justin Marcoux provide a thoughtful analysis of the exponential social impact made possible by philanthropists who are willing to take risk and incubate  innovative programs through their grantmaking. The IDP Foundation, Inc. (IDPF) strives to do just that by leveraging its flexibility as a private family foundation to take risks in hopes of proving a concept that will foster a pivotal shift in the global community’s approach to education. The success of the IDP Rising Schools Program motivates IDPF to continue taking risk in return for big reward.

The Problem

In 2008, Irene D. Pritzker, President of the IDP Foundation heard a very compelling speech by Professor James Tooley, the foremost researcher on low-cost private schools and author of The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World’s Poorest People Are Educating Themselves. Professor Tooley spoke of the widespread emergence of private schools serving the poor which are established in response to the market demand from communities frustrated with the poor quality or lack of reach by government schools.

Despite these schools being defined by poor infrastructure and largely untrained teachers, parents choose to pay small fees for their children to attend low-fee private schools due to the better accountability and time on task that they offer. Despite their need, Professor Tooley discussed how this sector was ignored by governments and funders. Irene was inspired to find a solution to empower these schools to continue and improve their important work of educating the world’s poor children.

Teacher TrainingA Proposed Solution

Given Irene’s determination to find a sustainable solution to help these schools, she turned to the existing innovation of microfinance. However, she quickly discovered that banks determined the low-cost private school sector too risky and were not willing to provide access to credit to low-cost private schools. Rather than give up on her idea, she decided it was time to innovate. Recognizing that innovation does not require developing an entirely new idea, but oftentimes making an incremental change, Irene decided to figure out how to extend capital to the low-cost private school sector.

In partnership with Sinapi Aba Trust (SAT), a Ghanaian microfinance organization, the IDP Foundation determined that with intensive training in financial literacy and school management low-cost private schools would be able to take and repay microfinance loans.  After developing training and targeted loan products, the IDP Rising Schools Program was born and began strengthening the low-cost private school sector through inclusion in capacity-building and financial services to increase access to education in Ghana


As Gabriel Kasper and Justin Marcoux detail, funders introducing innovation into their work “seek out ideas with transformative potential, take risks on less proven approaches, open themselves up to exploring new solutions, and recognize that innovation requires flexibility, iteration, and failure.” [i]

Understanding that testing a new concept requires flexibility and testing along the way, the IDP Rising Schools Program was piloted in three stages. In this manner, IDPF and SAT were able to determine the ideal number of training modules, interest rate on loans, amount of mentoring required, refine the training content, and the best way to integrate the program into the normal operations of SAT. By allowing for iteration, IDPF and SAT now feel confident that the program is ready to scale in Ghana. Over the next two years, the Program will add 350 schools, which will impact an additional 91,000 pupils and expand the total reach to 589 school and 155,000 pupils.

The IDP Foundation and Sinapi Aba Trust will continue to collect feedback from school owners to make adjustments along the way and ensure the IDP Rising Schools Program continues to create the greatest social impact possible.

Sesame Workshop Up to IDP Foundation, Inc.’s Challenge


Sesame Photo v2“I no longer force everything on my [students].  I know that they are different from each other and as such I now teach my [students] based on their individual uniqueness”

May 23, 2014

The IDP Rising Schools Program has proven that through carefully tailored loan products accompanied by specialized training in financial literacy and school management, very poor private schools in Ghana are bankable. Now, the IDP Foundation, Inc. has turned its attention to improve the quality of teaching in these low-cost private schools, whose teachers are largely untrained and have little access to professional development opportunities.

With the belief that Sesame Workshop is one of the greatest early childhood educators in the world, the President of the IDP Foundation, Inc. challenged them to explore educating a new demographic – teachers serving low-cost private schools. Excited by the opportunity, Sesame Workshop partnered with IDP Foundation, Inc. to create an innovative series of ten, ten-minute videos to transform teachers’ methods from rote to child-centered.

My vision was to partner with Sesame Workshop to see if they could be just as effective in preparing untrained teachers to create positive child-centered learning environments in some of the poorest regions in the world. I think they have done it.” –  Irene Pritzker, President, IDP Foundation, Inc.

With the production of the videos and accompanying materials complete, Sesame Workshop conducted 5 master trainings in the four regions of Ghana in which the IDP Rising Schools Program currently works. Head teachers and proprietors from each IDP Rising School gained the tools and materials to conduct step-down trainings in their schools. Each school also received Teacher Guides, math manipulables, and learning posters to facilitate creative and child-centered lesson plans.  After attending a master training in Ghana, the IDP Rising Schools Program Associate said, “To observe the teachers not only enjoy the videos and materials, but also embrace the child-centered methods through practice truly brought the project to life.”

A qualitative assessment conducted by the National Centre into Basic Education found that:

  • 100% of teachers agreed that that the topics were relevant to their teaching.
  • 100% of teachers reported implementing some of the techniques in their classrooms.
  • 97% of the participants stated the training improved their knowledge, attitude and behavior

Teachers reported that they learned the importance of developing a child-friendly classroom, how to make teaching more creative by having students bring low-cost materials to school, how to manage a classroom effectively, and how to assess and evaluate students. One untrained teacher said, “This training has made me now think of becoming a professional teacher.” Another teacher expressed that the training, “has helped the children to feel free and learn.”

Given the evidence, the IDP Foundation, Inc. and Sesame Workshop are delighted to know they developed a truly powerful set of tools to enhance the quality of teachers in Ghana.

Schools Proudly Report Academic Achievements

School boy

Two schools participating in the IDP Rising Schools Program report outstanding results on the BECE in Ghana.

May 16, 2014

Every year several hundred thousand Junior High School students take the Basic Education Certificate Examination in Ghana. This highly competitive exam largely determines their educational future as it selects the students who qualify to attend Senior High School as well as which school they will attend. With such high stakes, the IDP Rising Schools Program is thrilled to highlight two schools that did particularly well on the exam.

Baah Memorial Community School has thrived in the IDP Rising Schools Program. The school has taken and repaid three loans and seen its enrollment double. To help her students study for the BECE, the school’s proprietor, Lily Baah, added a boarding facility to her school to enable students to better focus outside of the classroom as well. The results of her students’ hard work and support of Baah Memorial Community School paid off. Not only did 100% of the first class of JHS 3 pupils sitting for the exam pass, but the school was ranked 2nd out of 130 schools in the district.

Ultimate Prep School ProprietorsUltimate Prepartory was established in 2004 and since that time has been adding levels to the school and growing its enrollment. Last year it saw its first JHS 3 class sit for the BECE. The proprietor, David, is overjoyed to report a dramatic improvement over the past year from 80% to 100% of his students passing in addition to Ultimate Preparatory’s ranking changing from 40th out of 110 schools to 19th out of 120 schools in the district.

 With this year’s BECE quickly approaching, the IDP Rising Schools Program is eager to witness continued success and improvement in Baah Memorial Community School, Ultimate Preparatory, and all of the schools participating in the IDP Rising Schools Program.

Meet a Low-Cost Private School Owner: Benjamin Boateng


Low Cost Private School Proprietor_Benjamin

“I Know That My Dream School Will Be Built Through This Program”

April 25, 2014

Benjamin Boateng established Peaceland Preparatory in Ghana in 2000, charging 7 USD per term to provide an affordable education for the children of poor parents in his community. Although his school was well attended, he aspired to overcome the challenges Peaceland Preparatory faced of lacking drinking water, electricity, the security provided by a fence, and land ownership to ensure the school’s stable future. But without making a profit, without access to credit, and without support from the government or traditional funders, how could Benjamin develop his school?

The IDP Rising Schools Program

In 2010, Benjamin found the support he required in the IDP Rising Schools Program, an initiative developed by the IDP Foundation, Inc. in partnership with Sinapi Aba Trust, a Ghanaian microfinance organization. This innovative program is empowering community leaders like Benjamin who have established private schools for the poor by providing them with training and microfinance loans. By delivering extensive training in financial literacy and school management coupled with regular mentorship visits, the IDP Rising Schools Program is able to deepen the reach of microfinance to low-cost private schools that are traditionally excluded.

Setting Priorities Right

Private School for the Poor_Peaceland_Sign

After four years participating in the IDP Rising Schools Program, Benjamin thinks back on his proprietor training and remembers how one topic in particular impacted his school, “Setting Priorities Right.” It was this topic that taught him how to prioritize for his school’s future in order to tackle its most pressing challenges: lack of drinking water, electricity, a fence, and land. By learning how to focus on the big issues before the small complemented with his newly acquired access to capital to purchase land, Benjamin has overcome these challenges. Now he is thinking about what he will prioritize next.

 Benjamin’s Future

When Benjamin thinks about the IDP Rising Schools Program he says, “I know that my dream school will be built through this program.” On the land Benjamin purchased with his loan, he intends to build a bigger and better school, equipped with a computer lab. Although Peaceland Prep’s enrollment has already doubled to 350 students since joining the program, Benjamin plans to expand the school’s reach to surrounding communities by purchasing a school bus. Moreover, with Peaceland Prep’s enhanced reputation, Benjamin can hire better qualified candidates applying for teaching positions. With the continued commitment Benjamin has demonstrated, the IDP Foundation and Sinapi Aba Trust are confident that Benjamin will build his dream school.

Learn more about the IDP Rising Schools Program by liking the IDP Foundation Facebook Page!